2016 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot Stout Vineyard
Stout Vineyard is located at approximately 1,700 feet in the Howell Mountain appellation–one of the Napa Valley’s most sought-after, ultra-premium winegrowing regions. As a result of its elevation, topography, soils and climate, Howell Mountain consistently produces a dark, dense and structured Merlot displaying rich wild berry and herb characteristics. In keeping with its mountain origins, this wine is supported by ample tannins, yielding a complex, age-worthy expression of Merlot.
Varietal Content: 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; Cooperage: 100% French oak - 75% new, 25% neutral
Grown high on the slopes of Howell Mountain, the vines of Stout Vineyard have produced a spectacular Merlot, with enticing aromas of cranberry, currant, boysenberry, blueberry pie and pencil shavings. On the palate, the wine starts out juicy and bright, with cranberry, clove and blue-fruit flavors layered with savory olive and black tea notes that evolve into a lush mid-palate. The fruitfulness of the palate is framed by polished tannins that lead to a long, structured finish.
2016 offered another near-perfect vintage in Napa Valley! While much-needed rain during the winter months helped to replenish our reservoirs, a dry spring and summer, with moderate temperatures and plenty of sunshine, led to another early harvest. Our first white grapes came into the winery on August 3rd, with the remainder of our whites following at an even, steady pace. A few weeks of ideally timed cool weather in early September provided additional hangtime, yielding bright acids and beautifully articulated flavors in our early ripening reds. Warm, dry weather for the remainder of the season allowed the rest of our grapes to develop rich, concentrated flavors, with polished tannins and wonderful complexity.
This a medium bodied merlot, with a silky mouthfeel. The wine introduces itself with antique cedar, toasted oak, and dried herbs off the top of the glass, creating an initially rustic aromatic profile. These aromas fade deeper into the glass, revealing ripe cherry and cassis, with faint traces of vanilla. On the palate, the wine is only somewhat tannic, with the ripe cherry from the aromatics carrying over pleasantly, with the addition of what I’ll describe as ‘dark notes,’ imagine a faint dusting of grated dark chocolate or coffee grinds. The finish is lasting and pleasant, and rife with herbal notes. This is a textbook case of how to do merlot right. Pleasant, robust but not overpowering, versatile and uncomplicated. This particular bottle will age beautifully for up to five years. This is a red sauce, grilled meats, and spicy food wine. In particular, grilled steaks topped with blue cheese would be an excellent pairing. Lamb burgers stuffed with feta and topped with fresh basil would also pair quite nicely. Personally, I paired this with pasta topped with a spicy marinara and pan fried meatballs and it was absolutely delicious. However, much like cabernet sauvignon, merlot is a ‘wine for all seasons and all tables.’ Part of its beauty is in its versatility, and so there really are very few entrees that would risk being a ‘spoiler.’ In other words, feel free to experiment – have fun with it. In terms of ‘when’ to drink this wine, think dinner parties and family gatherings where substantial entrees of sauce or roast meat will be on offer.